The Sunday Morning Talk Shows: The Review

ImageSunday, August 17, 2008


AXELROD TALKING POINT OF THE WEEKEND: We have no influence or leverage in foreign affairs because Bush and McCain have been focused solely on Iraq.

On FOX News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that our relationship with Russia, which had recently communicated in a forward-looking manner, was now “in tatters.” Then the surrogates, Ridge and McCaskill argued about whether John McCain had “undercut” President Bush on Georgia. McCaskill, the Obama surrogate, reminded that we have only one President. (That’s rich.) Ridge indicated that he would bow to McCain on abortion if he’s the veep pick (or that he wouldn’t accept the call).

On ABC’s This Week, SecDef Bob Gates indicated that Putin was calling the shots in Russia rather than Medvedev. Next up, Romney stood for McCain and Daschle for Obama. Daschle used a lot of MAYBE and POSSIBLY, which indicates that he was not entirely comfortable with Axelrod’s talking points.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, David Gregory was the moderator this time. He asked Secretary Rice about the disputed republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and rice said that they had been internationally recognized as part of the territorial boundaries of Georgia but that this was open to international negotiation. He tried to make Axelrod’s point by asking what sort of leverage we had on Russia, and Rice told him basically that we held the keys to the international organizations that Russia wanted to join. Tim Kaine and Bobby Jindal were next. Kaine praised Obama’s initial response to the Russian invasion of Georgia and accused Secretary Rice of “talking tough,” which was not what we should be doing. (He violated McCaskill’s “one president” rule.) Governor Jindal left no room in ruling himself out of McCain’s Veepstakes.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer first spoke to Secretary Rice, who compared the Russian invasion of George to that of the former Soviet Union invading the former Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Tim Pawlenty and Evan Bayh played the surrogate game, with Bayh trumpeting Obama’s judgment for having had Maliki say that the 16-month timetable sounded like a good idea. Pawlenty characterized McCain’s answers to Rick Warren last night as concise and decisive and Obama’s as meandering and non-committal.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stated the Russians were engaged in “ethnic cleansing” in South Ossetia. He praised Ronald Reagan and spoke of the Shining City of which Georgia is a part. Next up, Bill Richardson said that we’ve lost all leverage with Russia because we’re focused on Iraq and that he’s forgiven Hillary. (But he did not use that verb.)

RICE ON FNS. First up on FOX News Sunday, host Chris Wallace talked to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the Soviet Russian invasion of Georgia. Rice pointed out there was a cease-fire but Russian was not in compliance. She indicated that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had promised French President Nick Sarkozy that his country would abide by the document, but Rice said we’d have to see on Monday if this happens.

The Secretary said our relationship with Russia as the forward looking world power outlined upon the ascension of their President Medvedev is now “in tatters.” She said that we’re going to have to take our time when considering what’s next for Russia, including the possibility of throwing them out of the G7.

Rice would not commit to granting Pervez Musharraf asylum in the United States, and she refused to back John McCain in the coming election. She said that she was secretary of State, a non-political position to that extent, but she did not that she is a Republican.

RIDGE & MCCASKILL ON FNS. Next up on FOX were former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania as a McCain surrogate and Missouri Senator Clair McCaskill, on for Obama. Ridge quipped that democrats (small-d) in the Russian leadership were an “endangered species.” He argued that McCain’s quick response to the crisis in Georgia was because he understood instantly that this was a case of Russian aggression.

McCaskill said that Obama understood that this was Russian aggression too, but that McCain shouldn’t have reacted so quickly. She explained that we had only one President in this country, and that McCain should have let President Bush and Secretary Rice do their thing, not make it into something political. McCain had “undercut” Bush and Rice, she argued. Ridge responded that McCain’s take on this situation was the correct one.

McCaskill complained that our foreign policy must be “worldwide.” Bush and McCain, she argued, were “too focused on Iraq.”

Ridge argued that while it was important for Obama to support the president of Georgia, John McCain had been there three times.

As for his veep chances, Ridge said that John McCain is enthusiastically pro-life but understands that you must accept both points of view. He stated that vice president’s must subjugate their views to those of the President, which means that he wouldn’t accept the job if he couldn’t “play” at pro-life. He didn’t say what would happen if he had to assume the presidency.

Finally, host Chris Wallace suggested that Obama had “caved in” to Hillary’s demands in granting her the convention roll call. Would he cave in so easily in negotiations with foreign leaders? McCaskill said that Hillary is not the enemy.

ROBERT GATES ON TW. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was host George Stephanopoulos’s first guest on ABC’s This Week. Gates indicated that we would work with our allies to determine how to deal with Russia. He pointed out that Russian President Medvedev had spoken of integrating Russia with the West, but now he’s being belligerent with George and with “western investors and western companies.”

Gates indicated that Vladimir Putin was “at the steering wheel” in Russia, not Medvedev.

DASCHLE AND ROMNEY ON TW. Tom Daschle and Mitt Romney were Steph’s next guests, and Daschle complained that had Bush and McCain not been so focused on Iraq, this crisis in Georgia might not have happened. (Yes, “focused on Iraq” is emerging as an Axelrod talking point this morning.) Romney sees Russia as looking for enemies to invade, and he remarked that Vladimir Putin had a greater ambition toward the Soviet Union than did Mikhail Gorbachev. (He said it. I don’t know how, but he did.) On judgment vs. experience, Romney posited that judgment springs from experience.

Daschle’s language was couched in MAYBE and POSSIBLY, so it seemed the old guy was uncomfortable with Axelrod’s talking points.

SECRETARY RICE ON MTP. With David Gregory as the moderator, the first guest on NBC’s Meet the Press was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She is skeptical that Russia will cut it out in Georgia, as President Medvedev has promised things in this regard in the past and done nothing. People are beginning to wonder, she said, if Russia can be trusted. Gregory wanted to know why she bothered with Georgia instead of taking this directly to the Russians as he presumably would have done. Rice said she talked to her Russian counterpart (Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov) several times but that the Administration felt that the negotiations should be between the EU and Russia with U.S. support. She went to Georgia, she said, to show our strong support for the democratically elected government of Georgia.

Secretary Rice said that the territorial integrity of Georgia will be respected and that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia. This leaves open, she said, the chance for this “international community” to change its mind about these provinces and in which country they should sit. (She said that their status would be “negotiated.”)

Gregory wanted to know if U.S. soldiers would be part of the international peacekeeping force, and Rice addressed the moderator by his given name when she said that “David,” she didn’t think it appropriate to discuss the U.S. role.

Gregory adopted Axelrod’s language and talking point when he asked Rice what leverage the United States had on Russia. (Oh, it was a relevant question anyway.) Rice said that Russia wants to be a part of the international community. That’s our leverage.

KAINE AND JINDAL ON MTP. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (Obama) and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (McCain) were next up for Gregory on MTP. Gregory asked Kaine if he thought Obama was weak in his initial response to the invasion of Georgia, when he blamed no one but called for Russia and Georgia to sit down and talk about it. Kaine argued that it was a “very measured response, which is the tone we should take.” Gregory pointed out that Secretary Rice was not taking “measured tones” with Russia, and Kaine accused her of talking tough. (He evidently didn’t hear Claire McCaskill chiding John McCain on FNS that we have only one president at a time.) Kaine said that we have focused on Iraq to the point that we’ve neglected Russia’s ambitions.

Gregory told Governor Jindal that some in the Obama camp were accusing McCain of being belligerent in his reaction to the Russian invasion, and Jindal praised McCain’s foresight and judgment, having supported the surge and suggesting even prior to this invasion that Russia be cast from the G7. Very early on, Jindal said, McCain related that he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw “K.G.B.”

Gregory brought up the NYT article about fifteen Dems who think Obama will have a difficult time against McCain if he doesn’t add meat to the Hopechangehope rhetoric. He compared it to what Hillary had said about “speeches and solutions” during the Dem campaign. Kaine answered by saying that Obama leads in the national polls and “there are plenty of specifics.” Kaine doesn’t know if these criticisms of Obama come from Hillary’s campaign, but that they’ll all come together in Denver.

Jindal pointed out that Obama is for tax increases, though the details vary.

Gregory wanted to know if they think we’re better off than we were four years ago. It is Ronald Reagan’s question asked out of context.

Jindal ruled himself out of John McCain’s Veepstakes. Kaine said the he shares Obama’s vision, doubts he’ll be selected, but has told Obama that he’d do anything to help the ticket.

RICE ON FTN. First of for host Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation was Secretary of State Rice. She indicated that Medvedev had given his promise several times in the past but did not follow through, so we’ll have to see what if they pull out by midday Monday. She indicated that the only Russians troops which would be allowed to remain are those peacekeepers which were there before the invasion.

Rice noted that the Russians wanted it both ways: they wanted to be a part of civilized international institutions while engaging in Soviet-like bullying. (She made the comparison with the Soviet Union.)

She stipulated that Russia’s attempt to “bring down the Georgian government” had failed, but they had managed to hurt their standing in the modern world. She said that we were never close to war, but that the Russians have learned that the rest of the world would not tolerate “1968-like behavior.”

Schieffer asked the secretary if she feels responsible for this, as some experts are saying that the United States had hinted that there response would be more tolerant. Rice talked about encouraging a democratic Georgia with free markets and democratic institution. Here, we’ve supported diplomacy and sought to avoid military complicit.

Schieffer asked if Georgia would get back the provinces Russia had taken. She replied that we respected the territorial integrity of Georgia and the borders were by U.N. resolution.

PAWLENTY AND BAYH ON FTN. Next up for Schieffer were Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, for McCain and Obama respectively. Neither man had anything to report on the veep front.

He asked Pawlenty when he would use U.S. forces against Russia. The governor indicated that Senator McCain would use the military to protect U.S. interests and that it was unlikely that it would be used in this situation.

Bayh indicated that “we are not all Georgians now,” and he accused McCain of using sloppy rhetoric. He said that Obama was superior to McCain in foreign policy. Obama was right about invading Iraq, on the plan to get out of Iraq, and on George. Pawlenty pointed out that Obama opposes the surge even in hindsight. Bayh pointed out that Pawlenty had opposed the surge. Bayh said he had said he was skeptical about the surge because he thought it might be too late.

Bayh said that we can trust Obama’s judgment because Maliki had said that 16-months sounded good to him.

Schieffer asked Pawlenty if the United States had made the situation worse by promising Georgia too much. He asked who we want sitting across the table from Putin: McCain or Obama. Bayh said that Obama had been trying to solve the Georgian crisis for months and if we’d have listened to him, this might never have happened. He said that Bush and McCain were too focused on Iraq.

Pawlenty Bayh pointed out that McCain was clean and crisp in his responses to Rick Warren on Saturday night, while Obama meandered all over the place.

Schieffer asked them if Pastor Warren’s questions last night, about their character and judgment, were “appropriate” to a Presidential campaign. Pawlenty reiterated that Obama was hedging and wandering in his answers last night, not decisive. Bayh said that Obama had showed that he was a good Christian last night and that God wants government to clean the environment and take care of the poor. In this, God agrees with Obama.

SAAKASHVILI ON LE. Speaking perfect English, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was Late Edition host’s first guest on the CNN show. He said that Russia has to decide whether it will follow the cease fire or reach for its goal of taking over Georgia and regime change in Georgia. He indicated that Russia had violated all of its promises. He complained of Russia destroying the Georgian infrastructure, marching around and destroying things.

He brought up the situation in Armenia as being “even worse” than in Russia.

He indicated that there was “no such thing as Russian peace-keepers.” (“It’s a very cynical term.”) He looks forward to a “robust international peacekeeping force” to keep the Russians out.

Saakashvili pointed out that there is ongoing “ethnic cleansing” in South Ossetia. He said that if Russia gets away with this, it will never end. Russia will take what they want. Blitzer quoted Russian President Medvedev as blaming Georgia for the invasion and accusing Saakashvili of being a war criminal. Saakashvili pointed out that Russia could not have invaded with the troops it did in only on few hours. He pointed out that the Russians had said Hungary provoked them in ’66, the Czechs in ’68, the Afghans in 1978.

Wolf asked Saakashvili if Georgia expected to be a member of NATO any time soon. Saakashvili explained that freedom always supports itself, and that Russia “hates” freedom. He said that Georgia is not alone and that Georgia will succeed because others want her to succeed. Saakashvili praised Ronald Reagan as an ideal and indicated that the “shining city” will never die.

RICHARDSON ON LE Next up for Blitzer on CNN was Obama stooge Bill Richardson. He played a clip of McCain saying that Russia’s actions would have long term consequences in her relations with the U.S. Richardson allowed that McCain was correct, but that we’ve abandoned our relations with Russia while we focused on Iraq. We need to create diplomatic leverage with Russia, Richardson averred, not make bellicose statements.

Blitzer played a clip of Richardson saying that McCain would make things worse by expelling Russia from the G8. Richardson said we should engage Russia, not isolate her. He said we had to use our allies and organizations, and we’ve lost all leverage over Russia because of her oil and because “we’ve snubbed them.”

Richardson “totally rejects” the argument that Obama has shown “inexperience and naiveté” in his early response to the situation in Georgia. Richardson said we need “engaged and smart” diplomacy against Russia, which we’ve neglected because we’re focused solely on Iraq. We’ve let Afghanistan fall apart because of Iraq. We’ve neglected the war on terror because of Iraq. Etc.

Richardson said that the Dem Party is united and, in so many words, that he’s forgiven Hillary.

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Have at it!